In an even game between offenses and defenses, special teams made all the difference in the Buffalo Bills' 13-10 win over the Miami Dolphins.
A downed punt by Justin Jenkins at the Dolphins' 2-yard line led to a third-quarter safety and Roscoe Parrish's 40-yard punt return in the fourth quarter set up Rian Lindell's game-winning 34-yard field goal with 50 seconds remaining.
"There are three phases of the game -- offense, defense and special teams," Parrish said. "Special teams are always a key because it gives you the momentum on offense and defense. It changes the game."
The Bills were struggling to put points on the board when punter Brian Moorman drilled a 36-yard punt. It looked like the ball would go into the end zone, but Jenkins raced downfield and kept it in play.
Three plays later, defensive end Chris Kelsay sacked Dolphins quarterback Cleo Lemon in the end zone for a safety to cut the Bills' deficit to 3-2.
"It's something we've been going over in practice every week," Jenkins said. "Coaches say, 'Make sure you make the play.' It's hard seeing the ball when you're running full speed, but Brian put the ball up nice and high and I was able to focus on it and at the last minute keep it from going into the end zone."
"Any time you can pin them inside the 10, there's a 69 or 70 percent chance that our team will score next even though we're giving up the ball," said Moorman, who put two punts inside the 12-yard line and averaged 46.3 yards on six attempts. The biggest special teams play came from Parrish, who weaved his way through the Dolphins' coverage for 40 yards. He might have scored if not for a tackle by Cameron Worrell.
Starting from midfield, the Bills drove into position for Lindell to kick his eighth career game-winning field goal.
"All game the guys up front did a good job blocking for me," said Parrish, who averaged 20.3 yards on four returns. "Before I get in for that play, we were all crowded up on the sideline. We knew it was coming down to crunch time. I just read off their blocking."
The Bills' special teams almost allowed a kickoff return for a touchdown for the second week in a row. But a holding penalty negated rookie Ted Ginn Jr.'s 86-yard return that would have broken a 10-10 tie.
"[Ginn] wouldn't have gotten out if they weren't holding," Moorman said. "It's happened to us before, too. It all evens out in the end. Thankfully it went our way on that particular return."
>Three Bills injured
The Bills didn't come out of the game unscathed. Tight end Robert Royal suffered a concussion after hitting his head on the turf late in the first half. Cornerback Kiwaukee Thomas injured his groin and running back Marshawn Lynch sprained his left ankle in the fourth quarter. Lynch had a noticeable limp in the locker room, but said he would be fine.
Coach Dick Jauron said Thomas' injury was the most serious of the three. He'll be re-evaluated today.
>Quiet the trash talk
The Bills were a bit amused by all the trash talking by the Dolphins late in the game. Some Buffalo players said Miami acted as if it had the game won, especially after taking a 10-2 lead at the end of the third quarter.
"They were just talking reckless like they were really doing something," said Bills linebacker Angelo Crowell. "They were talking like they were up 20 points. They were winning, but it's a 60-minute ballgame. I just told our guys not to listen to the nonsense. We weren't going to get into that garbage because it's nothing but distractions."
Miami's mouthing off didn't distract the Bills, but it gave them added incentive to shut the Dolphins up.
"They were counting their chickens before they were hatched," defensive end Chris Kelsay said. "They were saying, 'You're about to get beat by an 0-8 Dolphins team.' Who in their right mind would say that, anyway?"
Lynch's six rushing touchdowns are the most by a Bills rookie since Antowain Smith had eight in 1997. . . . Cornerback Ashton Youboty, running back Fred Jackson, tight end Matt Murphy, linebacker Leon Joe, defensive end Copeland Bryan, QB Gibran Hamdan and defensive tackle Jason Jefferson were inactive.